Is the Cockatiel the Right Pet Bird for You?

Cockatiels are popular companion birds for all kinds of wonderful reasons. These small members of the parrot family are most closely related to their older, larger, louder cousins, the Cockatoos.

But unlike Cockatoos, cockatiels can easily be housed in small spaces such as apartments or condos. While not quiet by any means, cockatiels are also noticeably quieter when compared to other companion parrot species.

If you are thinking about owning a cockatiel, it is important to know up front that these small parrots represent a lifetime commitment. They are long-lived and bond closely with their owners.

You will want to carefully read through all of the information in this comprehensive cockatiel article to learn everything about the breed!

Is the Cockatiel the Right Pet Bird for You

Cockatiels are second only to the budgerigar as the world’s most popular companion bird. Cockatiels are known to be friendly and able to bond with several people at the same time.

Cockatiels can be noisy, however. And because cockatiels are able to imprint on humans, they can be needy pets. This means the cockatiel may not be the right pet bird for every family.

Learn About Cockatiels As Pets

This short and sweet YouTube video offers up to 25 key facts about cockatiels as pets.

Learning about the cockatiel’s size, weight, lifespan, intelligence, personality, and care needs can help you find the best match between what you want in a pet bird and what you have to offer to your parrot pet.

About Cockatiels in the Wild

The best place to start learning about cockatiels is to study the behavior of cockatiels in the wild.

Cockatiels are native to Australia. They travel in small family groups and larger seasonal flocks. Sometimes a flock of cockatiels can be made up of hundreds of birds!

This is very important to know because it tells you a lot about the socialization needs and behaviors of the cockatiel as a companion bird.

Cockatiels in the wild do not spend any time alone. They are always with others of their species. Many first-time cockatiel owners are unpleasantly surprised by their bird’s incessant calling and chirping. This is very normal behavior for cockatiels!

In most cases, a pet cockatiel will be able to bond with its humans and with the whole family. Human companionship can be a workable substitute for the constant companionship of other cockatiels.

But if you are thinking about choosing a cockatiel companion and you anticipate being away from the house for hours every day, your bird will get very lonely. Consider getting a second bird as a companion or choosing a different breed of pet.

Will Cockatiels Get Along With Each Other

While it is a great idea to get a second cockatiel if you think your bird will be home alone for hours each day if you do decide to bring home two cockatiels instead of the one you need to plan ahead.

Not all cockatiel color mutations (learn more about this in a later section here) are easy to tell apart in terms of gender (this is called gender dysmorphic).

This means that even in adulthood, it can be very challenging to figure out if your new cockatiel is a boy bird or a girl bird!

In addition, as Beauty of Birds explains, it is not possible to determine a hatchling or juvenile cockatiel’s gender from looks alone.

This is important because cockatiels reach sexual maturity relatively early in their long lifespan. And if you bring home a different-gender pair, you can expect to be breeding baby cockatiels whether you planned on it or not.

It is also important to know that not all cockatiels will automatically get along with each other. Parrots in general are intelligent and sensitive birds and may fight or simply not bond if the chemistry is not right.

You will want to pick a pair of cockatiels that demonstrates friendliness towards each other outside the cage.

Finally, if you plan to house your two new cockatiels together in one cage, you will need to verify in advance that the two birds are able to live peacefully together in a single cage.

Failure to tend to these important planning steps can result in the need to re-home one of your new cockatiels and this is emotionally wrenching for both owner and bird.

How to Tell Male Vs Female Cockatiel

Cockatiel Cottage offers important tips to determine if the cockatiel you are interested in is a male cockatiel vs a female cockatiel.

Cockatiel DNA testing

The most accurate method to figure out if your bird is a boy or a girl is to do a DNA test. This can be done using a blood sample or feathers plucked from the chest area.

Tests are relatively inexpensive and can be ordered online or through your avian veterinarian. It is best to have your veterinarian obtain the necessary samples for your bird’s comfort and safety.

Veterinary exam

In some cases, an experienced avian veterinarian may be able to palpate your cockatiel’s abdomen and vent area to guesstimate your bird’s gender.

Obviously, if you have more than one bird and you really don’t want to breed cockatiels this is not the most accurate method!

Cockatiel behavior

Another non-visual method to get a sense of whether your cockatiel is a boy or a girl is to watch their behavior. Again, this is not always accurate. However, there are some clues that may be helpful.

Male cockatiels, in general, tend to be more vocal, more outgoing, more apt to be attracted to shiny objects like mirrors and bells, and more likely to whistle and even talk.

Males have been reported to wolf whistle, form their wings into a heart shape, and rub their vent against perches or other surfaces when they are ready to mate.

Some owners report that female cockatiels can be quieter and less outgoing. Female cockatiels are more apt to dip their bodies down low and raise their tail region to indicate a readiness to mate.

What Colors Do Cockatiels Come In

You just learned more about where and how cockatiels live in a wild setting. Now let’s take a look at their colors in the wild and in captivity.

According to Animalia, all wild cockatiels look very much the same.

Nearly all wild cockatiels have the same basic coloration as follows:

  • Dark grey on the body and back, tail, and inner wings.
  • White on the outer wings.
  • Yellow on the face.
  • Bright orange circles on the cheeks.

The one difference is that wild cockatiel adult female birds also have grey shading on the cheeks. The wild adult male cockatiel will have pure yellow cheeks.

However, cockatiels that are bred for pet life can have an astonishing array of colors and patterns.

With the exception of the coloration of wild cockatiels, which breeders call “normal grey” or just “normal,” these human-created colors and patterns are called cockatiel mutations.

Here, the word mutation doesn’t mean a genetic flaw or defect. It simply means a change to a gene that affects how color pigment is enhanced or inhibited in the cockatiel.

There can be some disagreement in the worldwide community of cockatiel breeders about exactly how many human-made color mutations exist.

Cockatiel color mutations and breeding for each can get complicated quickly. This is just a quick look at the basic differences between the normal grey of the wild cockatiel and the best-known color mutations developed by cockatiel breeders.

Whiteface

According to the AFA Watchbird Journal, whiteface is considered a rare color mutation in cockatiels.

Cinnamon

The cinnamon cockatiel mutation looks like a lighter version of the normal grey coloration with more of a brown/slate tinge to the grey feathers.

Fallow

The fallow cockatiel mutation looks like a lighter normal grey cockatiel with a more yellow/brown cast to the grey feathers.

Albino

The albino cockatiel is not a true albino, as KM Breeding points out. Rather, this is a sub-mutation of the whiteface lutino.

Lutino

The lutino mutation typically feathers a white body with yellow cheek and head feathers, although there can be quite a bit of color and shade variation. Lutino cockatiels also have red eyes but not due to albinism.

Silver

Silver cockatiels can happen in two different ways, genetically speaking. The birds have a much lighter body and wing feathers that look silvery-white rather than the darker normal grey.

Emerald

Emerald cockatiels are quite rare and feature grey feathers with a yellow cast that makes them appear to be a very light green.

Pearl

Pearl is actually a color pattern that is often described as speckled.

Pied

Pied is another color pattern that causes white and yellow patches to appear in random places on the bird’s body and wings. No two pied cockatiels will ever look exactly alike!

Are Cockatiels Friendly Birds

Cockatiels that are bred by reputable and experienced cockatiel breeders who know how to feed, care for and train hatchling birds are typically friendly and loving birds.

However, wild-caught cockatiels, aviary cockatiels used for breeding purposes, cockatiels that have been poorly bred or neglected, and cockatiels that have not been hand-tamed may be skittish, standoffish, or even aggressive due to illness or fear.

This is quite normal and is something to watch for when you are choosing your cockatiel!

It is sometimes possible to tame and calm a cockatiel that has not experienced bonded life with humans.

But if this will be your first pet cockatiel, you are better off choosing a hand-tame breeder-born cockatiel that is ready to socialize and bond with you.

Cockatiel Size and Weight

According to Windy City Parrot, adult cockatiels typically weigh anywhere from 78 grams to 125 grams.

For comparison purposes, the regular size iPhone weighs about 228 grams. So one adult cockatiel will weigh about half of that at the very most.

However, cockatiels are long birds and often look larger than they really are.

Northern Parrots give the average length of a fully feathered adult cockatiel as being around 12 and a half inches – so just over a foot long from top of the head to end of the tail.

This is important to know before you pick out the cage your cockatiel will be living in.

Cockatiel Cage and Housing Needs

As Avian Avenue Parrot Forum explains, an adult cockatiel has an average wingspan of about 19 and a half inches, or just over a foot and a half from one wingtip to the other.

Experienced cockatiel keepers state that any cage you select for your new cockatiel to live in should have a width that is at least one and a half times the full wingspan of a fully flighted (not clipped) adult cockatiel.

Anything smaller than this would be confined to your bird and possibly dangerous if your cockatiel were to try to flap their wings or get some exercise in the cage.

And this a minimum to go by, not the ideal – whenever possible, more space is always better.

Are Cockatiels Noisy Birds

As we mentioned in an earlier section here, cockatiels are a flocking parrot species.

So while cockatiels may not have the loudest call of all parrots (this honor goes to the cockatoo according to Avian Avenue) but they are persistent noise-makers.

If you live in a space with near neighbors or shared walls or have a personality that loves quiet, the cockatiel may not be the best pet choice for you.

Do Cockatiels Have a Lot of Health Problems

Cockatiels are known to be generally healthy and relatively long-lived for their size.

But this only applies to cockatiels that have been well-bred by reputable breeders and that have received appropriate avian preventative veterinary care, a healthy diet, and exercise, and enriching daily life.

As VCA Animal Hospital points out, cockatiels can have a variety of health issues including but not limited to these:

  • Internal parasites.
  • Respiratory disease.
  • Egg binding (in adult female cockatiels).
  • Other reproductive diseases (in adult female cockatiels).
  • Fatty liver disease.
  • Yeast infection (gastrointestinal).
  • Tumors and cancer.

Preventative avian veterinary care can help identify these types of issues in the early stages before they become serious or life-threatening.

How Long Can a Cockatiel Live

As Singing Wings Aviary explains, cockatiel life expectancy varies between wild cockatiels and pet cockatiels.

Wild cockatiels typically live 10 to 14 years. But pet cockatiels can easily live into the 25 and even 30-year range. This is why we stated in the introduction to this article that choosing a cockatiel can truly represent a lifetime commitment!

This is especially important to consider if you are choosing a cockatiel for a child who may get older, lose interest in their bird or leave for college.

Rehoming one of these sensitive banded birds can cause extreme emotional distress to the cockatiel, but you can avoid inflicting this on your bird by choosing a pet with longevity appropriate to your lifestyle.

Is a Cockatiel Male or Female a Better Pet Choice

Both male cockatiels and female cockatiels can make loving and friendly, expressive pets. While male cockatiels do tend to be more vocal and can be louder than females, both make wonderful avian companions.

So it really often boils down to personal preference when you are choosing between a male and female cockatiel.

Cockatiel Food and Treats

Cockatiels should not be given a seed-based diet. Exclusive seed diets can lead to obesity and fatty liver disease.

Cockatiels in the wild eat a varied seasonal diet including grasses, seeds, nuts, fruits, insects, and even produce found in a farmer’s field or backyard garden.

In captivity, providing a pelleted diet with regular fresh organic produce, beans, nuts, greens and fruits will help your pet bird stay healthy and happy.

Cockatiel Wing Clipping

Cockatiel wing clipping is a volatile topic in the world of cockatiel breeders, owners, and keepers.

The choice to clip a cockatiel’s wings or not should be based on the bird’s safety inside the household as well as the chances of your cockatiel escaping to the outdoors.

Flight harness training can eliminate the need to clip your bird’s wings.

How Much Training Does a Cockatiel Need

Cockatiels tend to be easy to train using a clicker and positive rewards. They can learn to talk or whistle by mimicking you or a recording they hear repeatedly.

Cockatiels can also learn how to do tricks.

Can a Cockatiel Learn to Talk

While cockatiels are not the talkers of the parrot world, some cockatiels do learn to talk.

With this information, you can decide if a cockatiel is your perfect avian pet!

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